Sides of Mutton
Sides of Mutton
Source: Composed by John Sweeney
Formation: Solo Dance
32 bars. Choose whatever fits the style and tempo that you want.
I use The Albion Band's "Picking Up Sticks; The Old Mole" - three times 32 bars at 120 bpm.
For a slow version I use "Radstock Jig" by The Home Service (edit out the first 36 seconds). Four x 32 at 103bpm allows for stepping and also allows my older/slower dancers time to get through the heys.
You don't have to use flowerpots; any small items will do. Pints of beer are traditional; whenever you make a mistake you must drink one. This ensures that your Sheepskin Heys improve over time (or at least you think they do!).
The Sheepskin Hey comes from Playford's "Picking Up Sticks". It is in a common format for the mid-17th century with introductions of Up a Double, Siding and Arming. However in the The Lovelace Manuscript there are phrases such as "All doe arme, or halfe turne", so the introductions may not have been as standard as is thought.
There are lots of interpretations and variations of Siding, so for this dance I choose to use three different Sidings. You can stick with the ones that I have chosen, or do your favourite versions of Sidings instead. There are lots of different versions listed at Siding & Variants.
This video of me dancing shows it done with jumps, skips and skip-changes. You don't have to do it like that! You can use a smooth dance-walk of any versions of Sidings that you choose, to make it look much more elegant.
Swirly Siding: Take three steps forwards passing the Flowerpot by the Right Shoulder, turning to your right so that you are facing back, following the smae path take three steps forward passing the Flowerpot by the Left Shoulder, turning to you left to finish where you started. Avoid eye contact if the Flowerpot is English. You could do Into Line Siding, or Crochet Hook Siding as Cecil Sharp originally designed it; you can see him dancing it in the video on the Sidings page.
Side Across: Take three steps forward and turn 180 degrees to your right so that your left shoulder is by the Flowerpot. Fall back to the other side. Repeat with a left shoulder start, turning left, following the same path. This is very much like a Hole in the Wall Crossing.
Grapevine: Some dancers have interpreted Siding as meaning "move sideways". For a gentler version just take two chassee steps to the right, then two to the left; repeat to the left. The Lovelace Manuscript has these words, "the first man shall take his woeman by both hands and shall leade her down side long, allmost to ye bottome, very quickly," That sounds very much like a Gallop to me, so you could instead dance Slip Steps: right (4), left (8), right (4). A modern embellishment of the same concept is to do a Grapevine: Step to the right with the right foot, step behind with the left foot, step to the right with the right foot, step in front with the left foot, etc. Overall: Side, behind, side, in front, side, behind, side and kick - leaving the left foot in the air ready to start left on the way back.
Sheepskin Hey: Once you have started the Hey you just keep weaving up and down the line of Flowerpots. The catch is that each person, when they are at the back, gets to dance around the centre Flowerpot, thus taking the lead. One #1 is back in the lead you know you are ready for the finish. When you are by yourself it is slightly more challenging! Whichever person you are you know you are finished when you have passed seven flowerpots. If you are #1 Person then you turn back around the centre Flowerpot the third time you pass it; for #2 Person it is the second time; for #3 Person it is the first time. Hopefully the video makes this clear!
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